Combating the spread of infectious diseases in the Middle East

Tackling the threat should be considered a national priority that cannot be compromised or neglected

Samar Fatany

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The conflicts and wars surrounding us have contributed to the spread of viruses and infectious diseases that modern-day medicine has no cure for.

The World Health Organization has cautioned against viruses that are resistant to antibiotics and pose a great threat to the region and the whole world.

Our new year’s resolutions should include more determined efforts to fund medical research and upgrade our public healthcare in order to promote an environment that is free of threatening infectious diseases.

WHO has warned that communicable diseases are a great threat to world prosperity.

Tackling the threat should be considered a national priority that cannot be compromised or neglected

Samar Fatany

The threat is very serious and we must not trivialize this warning or neglect to address it in a more urgent manner.

Tackling the threat should be considered a national priority that cannot be compromised or neglected.

Upgrading medical research and providing better healthcare services should be the focus of future public policies.

At present, the services in most hospitals are in a poor condition in spite of government initiatives to address our failings.

Hospital-acquired infections are rampant and the spread of fatal infectious diseases like Ebola or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (coronavirus) still remain a great threat to the country and the region.

The Ministry of Health has not been able to enhance medical services; precautionary measures to combat lethal viruses are lacking and accessibility to treatment and care are inefficient.

These shortcomings continue to be detrimental barriers that stand in the way of a disease-free environment.

Saudi research to combat threats

Meanwhile, there is not enough research being conducted to provide appropriate treatment and care for the growing number of victims.

The adopted research policy is inadequate due to the lack of proper funding and unqualified specialists.

King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) that includes researchers from all over the world is expected to play a bigger role in conducting research and in developing the skills of Saudi scientists to find cures for the common diseases in our country.

The university’s research centers that bring together world-class scientists must come up with better research to address the pressing medical dangers that impact Saudi Arabia, the region and the global community.

The university has major facilities that offer state-of-the-art research equipment to support visiting international collaborators in their innovative research.

The laboratories at KAUST offer an opportunity to utilize resources for the exploration of scientific data.

All facilities are interconnected with a 10Gb link and can be utilized for global research meetings.

It is time we see more effective research and scientific contributions from the team of scientists and the talented students at KAUST.

Elsewhere there are several examples of young Saudi medical students and scientists who have contributed to major medical research that has an impact on healthcare initiatives.

Hosam Zowawi, who worked as an infection-control trainee at a hospital in Jeddah, is now pursuing his doctoral degree in microbiology at the University of Queensland Center for Clinical Research in Brisbane, Australia.

He recently made headline news for his research on drug-resistant bacteria. His research is focused on developing a rapid diagnostic test to identify bacterial infections.

Zowawi hopes his research will eventually end the need to prescribe antibiotics as a precautionary measure before making a rapid diagnosis in emergency situations.

Time magazine has identified Zowawi as one of the next generation leaders who are dedicated to scientific research that can save humanity from infectious threats that are not given due attention in our world today.

The Ministry of Health and medical institutions will be put to the test this year to demonstrate better management and to set national targets for the prevention and control of infectious diseases.

More funding and serious support for innovative researchers, as well as awareness campaigns on a national scale are crucial to prevent and control the prevailing viruses and drug-resistant bacteria that continue to spread at alarming rates in our region today.

The international community regards stopping the spread of infectious diseases as central to progress and economic growth.

Saudi Arabia is globally committed to support regional and international initiatives to combat the growing threat.

We are now required to upgrade our medical services and scientific research to meet the standards of international initiatives to limit the prevalence of infectious diseases that continue to endanger the lives of people in the region.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015.

Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.